More than a DO

Melanie Steel

DO and Clinical Reflexologist

Not Just a DO

How long have you been a Dispensing Optician?

I have been a DO for almost 30 years. I trained with Dollond & Aitchison and was very lucky to join when the eye exam fee had not long been introduced so optics was fairly quiet compared to the previous few months. So I had the attention of the practice manager all day, every day and he made sure I did everything correctly, in his eyes, and instilled a lot of his own skills into me. Deriving equations was not one of them though, I never did quite master that! Much to his dismay.

What made you decide to be a Dispensing Optician?

Upon leaving school I went to college and didn’t enjoy the course and wanted to give up. My mum said “you’ll need to find something else first”. After a visit to the career office at the job centre, they set me up with an interview for a Trainee DO. None of the staff even knew what it was and neither did I, and to be honest I didn’t care, I just needed to go home with something arranged. Long story short, after being the only applicant, I got the job!

What's the best part of being a Dispensing Optician?

I love so much about my job and I feel lucky that I can say that. I really do enjoy meeting new people. I am passionate about making sure I keep up to date so that I can make the best possible specs for every patient I see. That doesn’t mean the most expensive. I love bespoking and I am a massive Lindberg fan. I also am a “shop floor” kind of person so I am at my best ‘out the front seeing the patients ‘. Now I work part time the management role has gone by the wayside so I can concentrate on what I do best and love.

Tell us about being a qualified reflexologist.

I am also a part time clinical Reflexologist. I have been qualified approx 10 years and my client list is continuing to grow. I do some charity work for Breast Cancer care and Dorothy house hospice and I wanted a second career that helped people with cancer and life limiting illnesses. Reflexology is very helpful for those people and I see clients with all kinds of conditions and also some who just like the relaxation. One day when I don’t have to spend so much time on my 3 daughters I will volunteer at the hospice. Reflexology has taught me how to make connections with people and I’m sure it’s helped with making a stronger connection with optics patients also.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about training to be a dispensing optician?

I would say “Just do it”. It’s a brilliant career. It’s a technical and scientific job, mixed with fashion and functionality. If you indulge in it then it can be great fun. Keep in touch with peers and always be prepared to learn something new to keep fresh.